United States and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has two broken bones in his back and likely will miss the Americans' World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico this month.
Aston Villa's Brad Guzan is poised to take over in goal in what would be his first qualifiers in four years.
Howard was hurt Feb. 26 in an FA Cup win over Oldham and missed last weekend's Premier League game against Reading. That ended his streak of consecutive league matches at 210, two shy of the Everton record set by goalkeeper Neville Southall from 1987-93.
Everton manager David Moyes said Howard will miss Saturday's FA Cup quarterfinal against Wigan and the March 16 match league match versus Manchester City, but could return March 30 against Stoke.
"We are not sure how long Tim will be out for because, obviously with a goalkeeper, he has to dive around and hit the ground," Moyes said Friday, according to the team's website. "If everything goes well, he misses next week's game, as well, and then because of the international break he might be close after the rest because that would be four weeks."
Howard, 34, was the U.S. starter at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and has played in all seven qualifiers for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
"He has two fractures, but they are not bones that are supporting anything," Moyes said. "It is off the spine. They are not weight-bearing. It just needs a bit of healing time. It is not like a pure fracture where you need to wait to look at it. It is a question of whether he can cope with the pain. The bones will heal themselves, but it's not good."
Guzan won Villa's starting job from Shay Given early this season. He has 20 international appearances and a 3-1-1 record in qualifiers, with two wins over Barbados in 2008 and one over Guatemala, a loss at Trinidad and Tobago that year, and a draw the following year at El Salvador. He also played in the 3-0 win over Egypt at the 2009 Confederations Cup.
The Americans lost 2-1 at Honduras last month in their opener of the final round of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean, with new central defenders Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez struggling in front of Howard. They host Costa Rica on March 22 at Commerce City, Colo., then play four days later at Mexico City.
The top three nations in the finals, which also include Jamaica and Panama, advance to the 32-team field at next year's tournament. The No. 4 team goes to a playoff for another berth, against New Zealand or New Caledonia.
The U.S. also will be missing midfielder Landon Donovan, not scheduled to return to training with the Los Angeles Galaxy until late March. In addition, Tottenham midfielder Clint Dempsey has not played since Feb. 21 because of a calf injury. Hannover right back Steve Cherundolo has an injured knee and his return is uncertain.